Protecting Wild Places


Nestled between the City of Cheboygan and Cheboygan State Park sits the Duncan Bay Nature Preserve. This critical wetland is home to populations of rare plants including Michigan’s state wildflower, the dwarf lake iris, and is a prime nesting area for birds and waterfowl. It’s the perfect spot to watch bald eagles soar over the bay. Thanks to the efforts of the City of Cheboygan, Little Traverse Conservancy and Huron Pines, this ecological treasure will be protected from development and preserved for community use forever.

With over 3,500 feet of lake frontage, the Duncan Bay Nature Preserve, part of the Little Traverse Conservancy preserve system, offers Cheboygan residents an opportunity to experience a unique natural landscape less than two miles from the city center.

Huron Pines began looking for partnership opportunities in Cheboygan because of the city’s reputation for having unique ecosystems, a commitment to natural resources and an active community. At the same time, Little Traverse Conservancy was looking into purchasing land on Duncan Bay and the shared interest of the two organizations led to the creation of the Duncan Bay Nature Preserve. 

As Derek Shiels, Director of Stewardship at Little Traverse Conservancy explained, “We have nature preserves that are great for public recreation, we have nature preserves that have great views and we have preserves that have high ecological integrity. I’d say Duncan Bay capitalizes on all three of those.”

Huron Pines helped secure funding to purchase the land, receiving $430,000 in funding through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Sustain Our Great Lakes Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program. Acquired in 2017, the Duncan Bay Nature Preserve adds another attraction to the city’s growing recreation and natural resource-based economy.

“People come [to Cheboygan] because they like the trails, the water, the beaches and the birds,” explained Susan Page, former board member of Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, an active participant with Earth Week Plus and a member of the downtown revitalization group Bring It Cheboygan. “Duncan Bay is a big asset to the City of Cheboygan.”

City Manager Tom Eustice shares Page’s enthusiasm for Duncan Bay as he sees natural resources as the number one attraction bringing people to the city. “In a small city like Cheboygan, you need to develop all of the resources that you have,” said Eustice. “That piece [of land] that Huron Pines helped Little Traverse Conservancy buy, that’s going to be a big part of our recreational opportunities.”

Huron Pines is helping Little Traverse Conservancy execute plans to establish recreational and educational opportunities on the preserve while also protecting and restoring the natural habitat. In addition to trail maintenance and invasive species removal, there are long-term plans to install an extensive boardwalk system that will facilitate foot traffic and wildlife viewing while protecting delicate plant and animal habitat within the wetland. “We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be involved in this project,” said Brad Jensen, Executive Director at Huron Pines. “It supports our mission to protect the Great Lakes and provides new opportunities for educational programming, recreational access and community engagement.”

“The Huron Pines project is a perfect example of how a relatively small piece of land can be really critical to the waterway, to the economy and the wildlife,” said Page.

This project is about enhancing what Cheboygan already has to offer. “We’re working with the City and working with the Bring It Cheboygan group. We’re planning for some significant public use,” said Kieran Fleming, Chief Operating Officer with Little Traverse Conservancy. “This concept of ‘conservation can be good for business’—we like that. We like that our property may now fit into the bigger picture.”

The Duncan Bay project was just the beginning for Huron Pines. Since the project began in 2016, Huron Pines has become a qualified conservation organization with the capacity to own land for the purposes of conservation and protection. The goal at Huron Pines is for land protection to benefit the community and the environment—to build connections between people and nature and to lay the foundation for lifelong environmental stewardship.

A Land Protection Future

North Point Peninsula
Huron Pines Executive Director Brad Jensen surveys Lake Huron during a visit to Alpena’s North Point Peninsula. The North Point property will be turned over to the Friends of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary for management and permanently protected through an easement held by Huron Pines.

The Land Protection Program at Huron Pines is dedicated to the long-term protection of the most special lands in Northeast Michigan, including lands with rare and endangered species, unique ecosystems, working forests and agricultural value. The land must also provide opportunities that inspire environmental stewardship, like recreational use or educational programing, to help ensure the long-term sustainability of Michigan’s natural resources.

Over the next 25 years, we plan to protect and restore 100,000 acres of prioritized land across Northeast Michigan. We are in the process of permanently protecting a 1,500-acre coastal fen on Alpena’s North Point Peninsula through a conservation easement. The property includes four miles of Lake Huron shoreline with a diverse ecosystem that is home to threatened and endangered plant and animal species.

In August, through a generous donation from John and Wendy Frye, Huron Pines received an 80-acre piece of property in Hubbard Lake. The property has two miles of wooded trails for year-round recreation, as well as two onsite structures that can be used for classroom, meeting and office space. Huron Pines is seeking $65,000 in private donations to turn this piece of land into our first nature preserve. With your help, the Hubbard Lake Preserve will be a place for residents, visitors, local organizations and schools to enjoy.

This new chapter in land protection offers countless new conservation opportunities. As we continue to build our land protection, environmental education and community engagement programs, we are more and more dependent on support from people like you.

Your contributions provide us with the flexibility to expand our programs to meet the changing needs of our region. Please consider supporting our efforts to protect these special places forever with a contribution to Huron Pines by mail or online at

This publication funded in part by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust.

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